Friday Faculty Focus: Sajda Qureshi


June 30th, 2017

Dr. Sajda Qureshi poses for a photo. (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

Time now for Friday Faculty Focus with KVNO’s Brandon McDermott. This week, McDermott speaks with Graduate Program Chair and Professor at the College of Information, Science and Technology at UNO, Dr. Sadja Qureshi.

Brandon McDermott: Dr. Sajda Qureshi, thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Sajda Qureshi: Thank you for inviting me.

Brandon: What do you tell prospective students who want to go to graduate school through IS&T?

Dr. Qureshi:  The PhD and IT program is really designed for two markets. One is the academic market which is actually growing — information systems is part of that market information systems — my area is information systems. What information systems does, is it teaches students to align information in an organization — the information needs of an organization to the technology. Most organizations do have technology implementations, so there are lots of theories and practices that students will learn and in the PhD program they will they are actually quite competitive for academic positions.

The PhD & IT program also has a computer science component that’s also train students for the academic market, as well as the technology market — we have placements in companies like eBay — students go work in eBay as well as at universities. Then there’s other areas too, IT security for example is a growing area and has a very large market for professionals as well as academics. There are just so many opportunities and there are many more jobs than graduates. So, I would definitely encourage students who have any inclination and research or any background in research.

Brandon: A journal article you recently wrote was titled “Creating a Better World with Information and Communication Technologies: Health Equity.” Can you talk about the use of ICT’s in combating the spread of deadly viruses?

Dr. Qureshi: Oh that’s a great question. Technology has just been quite an interesting as well as very useful tool for combating viruses — Ebola in particular. That article talks about the story of Ebola, as you know, is an important one because we have one of the few — I think probably the only containment center here at UNMC for Ebola. Ebola started I think in West Africa and it spread very, very quickly mostly because people travel. Nigeria was able to combat that through a combination of boots on the ground and what we call the Global Information Systems network.

A GIS Network is basically what this was, collecting people’s cell phone information and then connecting that to a system that would track their movements. So, even though people may not be entirely forthcoming about their whereabouts, the GIS system was able to tell the doctors and the people trying to combat the spread of Ebola, where the actual contaminants were.

Brandon: Kind of moving on here, can you explain to listeners what the Cloud Computing Lab is and your work with it?

Dr. Qureshi: Yes so I run a lab it’s called IT for Development Cloud Computing Lab. The reason it’s called the Cloud Computing Lab is because we have servers in the building somewhere that all the machines in the lab are connected to. So, basically the processing power capacity, as well as the networking, are distributed across a bunch of servers in an undisclosed location and they’re secure.

So, unlike for example the Apple Cloud — I actually know where those physical servers are. If I’m (able to) to get a grant I will be able to keep the data secure, physically, as well as through security protocols. It is a private cloud unlike Apple which is a public cloud. What it does is that helps us collect aggregate large amounts of data and analyze that data. So, over the years we’ve collected data on I think over 200 hundred micro enterprises.

We collect that data on the ground with my students when we work in North Omaha and south Omaha as well as western Nebraska – we’ve got some businesses in China as well as Jamaica and California as well. We’ve got businesses from all around really, where we measure specific outcomes that small businesses with micro enterprises have from their IT interventions — technology interventions — really basic technology and training interventions and those outcomes are for example access to new markets, job creation, income generation and even administrative efficiencies, productivity increases, and growth as well would be the long term.

Brandon: Dr. Sajda Qureshi, thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Qureshi: Thank you for inviting me, I really appreciate it.

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